Cash for farmworkers? California lawmaker says new $20 million idea will help amid drought

A Democrat lawmaker from the central San Joaquin Valley wants to put cash in the hands of eligible farmworkers to help them deal with the devastation of California’s drought.

Proposed by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Sanger, Senate Bill 1066 would allocate $20 million to create the California Farmworkers Drought Resilience Pilot Project, a state-funded project that would provide unconditional monthly cash payments of $1,000 for three years to eligible farmworkers, with the goal of lifting them out of poverty.

“When we talk about climate change, we forget about those that are most impacted and are already hurting,” Hurtado said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “And that is the workers and the farmers.”

Part of the reason for the bill is that the agriculture industry lost over 8,000 jobs in 2021 alone due to the drought, Hurtado said.

“This is climate change; we know this (the drought) is ongoing,” Hurtado said. “I don’t anticipate it getting better.”

The proposed legislation comes nearly a year after Hurtado wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging him to prioritize farmworkers with the $35 million the state earmarked for guaranteed basic income pilot programs. The funding, agreed to by the Governor and the legislature as part of the fiscal year 2021-22 budget, will prioritize projects that serve former foster youth as well as pregnant individuals.

Hurtado said the state needs to create more policies that support the agricultural workforce.

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